The Seattle Yacht Club held its annual Opening Day boat parade Saturday May 3rd, and the Sea Scout Ship Yankee Clipper had the honor of leading four ships from the Chief Seattle Council Fleet as they passed thousands of spectators lining the Montlake Cut on the way east to Lake Washington.
The ships in line included West Seattle’s SSS Yankee Clipper (which also hosted guest crew members from the Edmonds based SSS Kelcema of the Mount Baker Council), The SSS Argo from Bellevue, The SSS Hurricane from Port Orchard, and the SSS Propeller of Seattle. The SSS Odyssey from Tacoma’s Pacific Harbor Council was also in the boat parade, but further back so she could compete in the Classic Sail Division, where she took second place.
As the Seattle fleet, with Sea Scouts on all boats in full dress blues lining the decks, neared the judges platform, the Sea Scouts were called to “Attention”, the trill of the boatswain’s pipe pealed out across the water. The young men and women of the fleet snapped the “Hand Salute” and to the surprise of the judges, assembled press and spectators on all sides, a cannon’s roar bellowed out across the water to honor this year’s SYC Admiral Michael Carrosino, Vice Admiral Ted Shultz and Admiralette Shawn Otorowski.
But as soon as the shock from the cannon’s retort began to fade, the club officers crisply returned the salute offered by the Sea Scouts while others on the judges boat and surrounding vessels on boat sides of the parade route broke into rounds of applause and cheers for the Sea Scout Ships their and crisp crews.
Preparation for the smart performance started hours earlier at Waterway 18 on the North side of Lake Union. That’s where the Chief Seattle Council’s Sea Scout base is located and is the home of the SSS Propeller and the Council Fleet’s small boat sailing program. The boats from the other regions of the Council had gathered there to prepare, some arriving at midnight and spending the night on the docks so they could be up early to prep the ships.
The Chief Seattle Council fleet was competing as a fleet, all for one and one for all, and rules required not just that they look sharp and show proper nautical comportment but that they maintain constant speed and spacing while maneuvering, and maintain attention. They also were required to display a specific signal flag sequence where any variation would cost points.
There was a lot of checking and re-checking of the signals and the boats before they even left the docks.
The trickiest part of the Seattle Opening Day parade is not the run down the cut, but the circling and queuing of hundreds of boats in the confined waters of Portage Bay, the small body of water near the University of Washington that links Lake Union north of Downtown Seattle and Lake Washington to the east. The boats range from kayaks to 150-foot antique power cruisers. From steam powered launches to modern Foss ocean going tractor tugs, with multiple Seattle police and fire boats in between.
Finally the call for your class comes, and you pick your way to the opening of the cut, for the run down to the judging vessels. Once passed the judges, you run a gauntlet of hundreds of spectator boats lining a log boom all the way out to Lake Washington.
One benefit of being among the first boats through the course, is that the Seattle Sea Scout Fleet had plenty of time to wait, almost three hours, before traffic would be allowed to return down the course. So the Sea Scouts continued out into Lake Washington, where the water is 400 feet deep, and rafted up for a big Sea Scout hot dog BBQ. And once the Odyssey from Tacoma finished her review she came along, passed lines, and joined the party. Scouts passed from vessel to vessel, checking out each other’s quarters and sharing stories of the day.
Finally the time to return through the cut came. The crews manned their stations and crisply handled the task of safely breaking the raftup. You know the day has gone well, when as the boats begin to pull apart, and you hear a Sea Scout on another ship say, “Hey, that was fun. We need to get together with these guys like this more often.”
So the boating season in the Northwest is “officially” open. And since that’s the case, the second crew of the Yankee Clipper, the Eastside Peak Crew from Woodinville, isn’t going to let barnacles grow on her bottom. Just 24 hours after the Seattle Crew had the 71-year old gaff-rigged ketch out in the parade, the Eastside crew has out again today for their latest training and adventure on the water.
Fair Winds from the Northwest.